Above: South Gippsland Landcare Network
Kate McKenzie (nee Williams) is Network Coordinator at the South Gippsland Landcare Network and was the winner of the Manpower Young Landcare Leader Award at the 2015 Victorian Landcare Awards.
I got involved with Landcare unofficially in 2006 when I worked with local government in Broadford. I remember attending a group meeting near Tallarook and being really impressed by the knowledge and passion members had for their patch.
I’ve always been a great believer in enabling genuine community participation in the management of natural resources, and I thought to myself at the time: this is something I want to be involved with.
Four years later, a position came up with the South Gippsland Landcare Network in Leongatha and I jumped at it. The most rewarding aspect for me is following the journey of new landholders moving to the area. When they are new to the area they come to Landcare for advice. Then, after a number of years, it’s the other way around and they are the ones giving Landcare advice to the next batch of landholders.
It’s fascinating to watch people grow, develop their land management skills and become valued, integrated members of the local community. In my mind, that’s what Landcare is all about – enabling the community to address issues local to them by providing an efficient framework for the sharing of information and resources.
Landcare has taught me about flexibility. I have learnt to adapt my approach depending on the group and the issue that I’m dealing with. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to working with community groups. What works for one will not necessarily work for another.
“In my mind, that’s what Landcare is all about – enabling the community to address issues local to them by providing an efficient framework for the sharing of information and resources.”
South Gippsland is fortunate to be a tree change and sea change region as well as being highly productive from a farming perspective. Social capital and natural capital are interdependent. You cannot sustain one for long without the other.
As a consequence, I strongly believe that Landcare in the region will remain vibrant, and that in 30 years time, sure, land use and technologies will change, as will the people who make up the community. However, the need to raise awareness, build social capital and facilitate community engagement will always exist.
New technology is moving at such a rapid rate I expect to see robots in paddocks controlling weeds, virtual fences and drones mapping out project sites.
The prospect of new technologies and thinking – including greater cross-cultural participation – to solve current and emerging land management challenges makes it an exciting time to be involved in Landcare.